Comfort and Space in a Strata Home

/ The Edge Property
September 27, 2016 8:00 AM SGT
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The exterior of Charlton 27, which has 27 strata terraced units overlooking a 50m swimming pool
charlton 27
Over the past 16 years, A D Lab, an architectural practice founded by Warren Liu and Darlene Smyth, has designed many private homes in Singapore, as well as luxury resorts and condominiums overseas in China, Indonesia, India and Malaysia.
However, Charlton 27 is the first strata landed housing project the firm has tackled. “A lot of people associate cluster housing with tunnel-like spaces, or rows that look into each other,” says Smyth. “So we challenged ourselves to really make the units spacious and open up the centre of the house, creating views and a feeling of wellness.”
Developed by ACT Holdings, Charlton 27 obtained its temporary occupation permit in March this year. Some of its residents have already moved in.
Liu and Smyth of A D Lab, the architects behind Charlton 27
a d lab
Passive design
The project won the BCA Green Mark Gold Award. “We paid a lot of attention to ensure that the design made use of passive means to control the environment,” Smyth adds.
A lofty ceiling height of 4.2m in the living room and 4.8m for the mezzanine level certainly helps. At the staircase is a light-well with a wind scoop at the top, which acts as a louvre. When the roof heats up, hot air will rise to the top and become a low pressure point. It will then suck up air from the ground up, bringing fresh air through the building. “In architectural terms, it’s called a stack effect,” says Smyth. “So there is constant air circulation within the house. Even without a breeze, the staircase area feels windy.”
The bedrooms at the different levels were also designed with external and internal windows opening out to the staircase to maximise cross-ventilation. Louvres are used as a screening device for sunlight and to provide privacy for the external bedroom windows.
The view from the upper mezzanine floor of the kitchen, living area and swimming pool beyond
charlton 27
The living room has a ceiling height of 4.2m and a DomusLift with glass enclosure
charlton 27
Opening up spaces
The architects also created mezzanine levels that allow family members on different floors to communicate with each other more easily and have a wider view of different parts of the house, says Smyth.
The kitchen was designed in a way that it either sits in the middle of the house or is tucked into a corner to avoid having the narrow, tight spaces one finds in typical cluster housing units, says Liu. “That was one of the challenges because we wanted to make the space very open.”
Each house has four levels and five en suite bedrooms, including a master and junior master suite with walk-in wardrobe. Even the common bedrooms are large enough to fit a kingsized bed. In the basement is a utility room with a mechanical clothes-dryer installed, a helper’s room and a separate bomb shelter, as well as an en suite bedroom that can be used as an entertainment or games room. Each house comes with two private parking spaces in the basement.
Each unit has a fully equipped kitchen. The equipment includes white goods such as a refrigerator, dishwasher and washer-dryer. All the rooms are installed with energy- saving ceiling fans. Each home is also fitted with an Italian-made DomusLift.
The spacious master bathroom with double vanity top, bathtub and shower
charlton 27
A different perspective of the living room
charlton 27
Most units come with a private jacuzzi linked to the swimming pool. Other units have a water feature. Each house also has a veranda at the other end of the house. This can be used as an al fresco dining area, or a small garden.
The distance between the two rows of terraced units is 11m to 12m. This is double the width of some cluster housing projects, where the distance between rows is just 6m. In the centre of the common space is a 50m swimming pool and lush landscaping. Other communal facilities include a barbeque area, a children’s playground and an exercise deck with a gym and sunken courtyard.
Charlton 27 was midway through construction when the URA came up with new guidelines for strata housing developments in August 2014. “This is probably one of the last strata housing projects to be built before the new rules came in,” says Smyth.
The junior master suite with walk-in wardrobe
charlton 27
‘Something we would live in’
Designing a cluster or strata housing development is different from designing a private home. “We don’t know who the ultimate homeowner will be, so we designed something we ourselves would like to live in — a comfortable home with the feeling of space and a view of nature,” says Smyth.
Liu and Smyth, who are married to each other, were designing and developing their own home around the same time Charlton 27 was being developed. “So we looked at Charlton 27’s design from a homeowner’s point of view,” says Liu. “This is especially important as most buyers today are buying for their own use.” The architects faced a similar challenge with their own home, which is an intermediate terrace house with a tight footprint of 1,390 sq ft. They tore down the original structure and built a three-level house with a floor area of 3,300 sq ft. The house was completed 2½ years ago, and they have moved into their new home.
The couple used the same approach in designing their own home as they did for Charlton 27, as they faced similar issues. “A lot of people associate Opera Estate with being hot because it’s in a valley,” says Smyth. So they created a central skylight and an air-well, and allowed all floors to enjoy natural ventilation.
The upper levels of the house, including the master bedroom, were designed such that the couple can have a view of the different parts of the house. This allows them to stay connected with their children, a son and a daughter, even if they are not in the same room.
“We also thought about how the space was going to be used, especially when people come to visit,” says Liu. “Her parents visit every two years [from Canada] and usually come with a group of people.” The house was therefore designed with the flexibility to close some areas to be converted into six bedrooms if needed.
Designed for multigenerational families
Increasingly, they are finding themselves designing homes for multi- generational families. “For many of these clients, the property is old and owned by the parents. The children will be looking at redeveloping it so that the whole family can live together,” says Liu.
Many of these projects are two semi-detached houses redesigned to look like a big house instead of two separate homes. Some are torn down and rebuilt, but incorporate the owners’ childhood memories of the old home, says Smyth.
She sees the firm as a laboratory, hence the name A D Lab. “The lab aspect is an approach to rethink something,” she adds. “Sometimes, architects are known for their style, but every project we do is very different because it’s designed from the ground up. And it’s about the owners, and how they are going to use the space. The whole idea is also about optimisation of space and economy.”
This comes across at Charlton 27, says Smyth. “It may not have striking architecture, but when you walk in, it feels comfortable and homely — it brings the outdoor space in and creates wellness.”
Charlton 27 has 17 different layouts. Most of units have built-up areas of about 4,500 sq ft, says Thomas Ang, associate director of Orange- Tee, who is marketing Charlton 27. Prices of the remaining seven units range from $2.88 million for “star buys” to $3.5 million, depending on the build-up of units, which can go up to 5,952 sq ft.
“With five bedrooms, the strata houses at Charlton 27 appeal to multi-generational families with up to eight people, including a helper,” says Ang.

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